Kentucky Derby Betting Guide For Dummies: All You Need To Know

There are few more famous horse races on the planet than the Kentucky Derby. Staged annually on the first Saturday in May, the race is the opening leg of the Triple Crown in the United States, and it takes place at Churchill Downs. Horses aged three will compete in the race, with each looking to immortalize their name in the history books forever.

However, aside from those connections involved, it is also one of the most popular betting events on the planet. Hundreds of millions of dollars are wagered on the race, and newcomers to the sport of horse racing also get involved. You can find out everything you need to know before making a wager on the race here.

Betting Markets Available

1. Win Betting

The most popular way to place a bet on the action at Churchill Downs is by placing a wager on the win market. Here, you will be selecting the horse that you believe will cross the line first in the Kentucky Derby. Returns are only credited to your account if the selection wins the race, with the stake lost if your selection finishes second or worse.

2. Place Betting

Place betting is often one of the preferred betting markets among newcomers to the sport, as it offers insurance on your wager. That is down to the fact that bettors will get returns on their selection should the horse that they have picked finish in first or second place. However, it tends to be a more interesting market among those that want to place money on an outsider selection.

3. Exotics Betting

Experienced bettors often look to make wagers on the exotics markets available, but these are typically among the most difficult to get returns. One of the most popular available is the Exacta. Here, the bettors must correctly predict the horses that finish the Kentucky Derby in first and second, in the precise order.

Bets can also be placed on the Trifecta, where bettors must predict the runners that finish first, second and third. For those looking for an increased chance, they can include more than two or three runners in a ‘box’, with the returns than being paid out depending on the finish order.

4. Future Betting

Future betting is very popular when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, as it enables experienced bettors to take a price on a selection before the final field has been announced. This is an excellent opportunity to get better value on selections that could start the Kentucky Derby at a much smaller price.

What To Look For Before Making Bets

1. Horse Form

One of the most important factors to consider before making a bet on the Kentucky Derby is the form of the horses involved. Given that all runners in the field need to earn their spot in the race, we would have seen all the runners on at least one occasion in prep appearances. These are the main pieces of form to assess, as it is the best way to weigh up the pros and cons of all 20 runners that are involved in the race.

You should examine the distances that the horses have run over, and where they have finished in the starts that they have made. Furthermore, you should also examine the speed ratings, and whether they have finished in front or behind other horses that will be competing in the Kentucky Derby.

2 Pedigree

Given that the Kentucky Derby is staged over a distance of 1 ¼ miles, many of the three-year-old runners in the field are yet to be tested over that distance. Many of the preps are staged over 1 1/8, meaning that it’s important to consider the horses and whether they are weakening approaching the line in their prep starts or running through the line.

An easy way to assess the leading chances is to study their progeny. The most successful stallion in the history of the race is Northern Dancer, who has landed seven wins. Other successful stallions include Ben Brush, Seattle Slew, and Unbridled, who have all returned three winners throughout history. Click here to find a list of former winners.

3. Trainer/Jockey Form

As well as studying the horses, extra attention should also be put onto the form of the trainers and jockeys involved in the race. Jockeys in good winning form will indicate that they are confident, and they will have a better chance of landing victory in a big race than a jockey that is struggling for form in the saddle. The same can be said of the trainers.

Trainers who have positive records from their recent runners indicates that the yard is in strong form, and that will enhance their chances of landing victory in the Kentucky Derby. However, trainers that are struggling for victories could indicate that there is something amiss in their yard.


The Kentucky Derby is run over a dirt terrain, and while the majority of the prep races are run over the same surface, there are some slight differences on the international prep races.

In Europe, the preps are staged on the all-weather, while the dirt at international meetings such as the UAE Derby often rides differently to the conditions at Churchill Downs. It is important to assess whether the conditions at the Kentucky Derby track will play into the strengths of runners, and whether they are better suited to another surface.

Kentucky Derby 2024 Favorites

The 2024 Kentucky Derby is only a few weeks away, and there are a number of horses at the top of the betting that holds solid chances. Forte landed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year, and has returned in stunning form with victories in the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth.

Tapit Trice is an improving runner, while Angel of Empire and Practical Move have also both won in stakes company this year. Derma Sotogake could also be an eye-catching contender this year, as Japan bids to land a first success in the Kentucky Derby.

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